MotoGP 2018 – Round 15
Chang International Circuit, Thailand
MotoGP is embarking on a new chapter in Grand Prix motorcycle racing when the championship makes its first visit to Thailand as the Chang International Circuit prepares to stage the PTT Thailand Grand Prix this weekend, October 5-7.
Will the tyres cope?
Michelin heads to the 4,554m track with a strong line-up of tyres, which were chosen after a pre-season test at the circuit that is situated in Buriram, north-eastern Thailand.
With Buriram being a new venue and from the data that was collated at the test, it has led to specific rear tyres being constructed to contend with high temperatures that will be generated. Michelin has brought four options of rear tyre for its first visit to the circuit, aimed at giving all riders and teams the best opportunity to get the optimum performance from their machines. These will be in soft, two mediums versions and hard and they will all be asymmetric, with a harder right-hand shoulder to cope with the circuit’s layout of seven right-turns, against just five on the left. Michelin has chosen three front tyres for the allocation, which will be in soft, medium and hard compounds and will all have a symmetric design.
Piero Taramasso – Michelin
“We had the pre-season test at Buriram and got some really valuable information. We have brought specific rears to this race which have been purposely designed for this track – the same as what we do in Austria and Australia, because these are very unusual circuits and require special tyres. These are completely new and were designed after the test, but before we had to give the allocation for the season, so we have two mediums, as this will allow us to decide which is the compound best suited to the track and assist with next year’s allocation. It will also give all the riders the best options to get the most from their respective bikes. All the plans for dry track time could be wasted though, as it is the monsoon season in Thailand and there is a chance of wet weather. We hope this isn’t the case, but if it does we have a range of Michelin Power Rain tyres that should be able to cope with whatever nature sends our way.”
The weather in Thailand in October can be very changeable, as it is still officially the monsoon season, so wet weather could play an important part in the proceedings. Wets will be available in a soft and medium front and a medium rear which will all be symmetric, with just the rear soft having an asymmetric finish with the harder right-side like the slicks.
Can anyone claw back any serious ground on Marquez?
72-points is the gap Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) has at the top of the MotoGP World Championship as the paddock heads for Buriram and new-to-the-calendar Chang International Circuit.
That’s almost three race wins clear and it’s fast becoming a last chance saloon for those on the chase, currently led by Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team). Now is the time to strike, but no one can shake off the consistency of the number 93.
The form guide has been static of late
The long and challenging MotorLand Aragon is a very different beast to the Red Bull Ring and Brno, and yet the protagonists remained the same – in terms of speed at least. Although Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) suffered a Turn 1 crash and was out of the running, it was once again Honda vs Ducati at the front for the majority of the weekend and this time Marquez came out on top. So will that remain the same at Chang despite the nature of the track?
Honda topped testing in Thailand
Testing tells us that Honda will be strong. It was Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) who topped Day 1 of the test at Buriram, Marquez who was quickest on Day 2 and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) went fastest on Day 3 and overall – a clean sweep for the Japanese manufacturer.
Ducati Team’s Dovizioso was a little further back, and Lorenzo further still after a difficult test…but who showed their hand? Ducati have only gained momentum as the year has gone on. Lorenzo arrives on the road to recovery after that crash at Aragon, but the ‘Spartan’ isn’t known as the ‘Spartan’ for nothing.
If we are to get another Honda vs Ducati duel at the front, Team Suzuki Ecstar will be hoping they can get as close to it as they did at Aragon. Andrea Iannone was on the podium and in that battle for a bit, and teammate Alex Rins wasn’t far behind as they took two top four finishes. Rins also had good form in the test at Buriram so the signs look good for the Hamamatsu factory.
Can Yamaha find a happy hunting ground in Thailand?
So what of Yamaha? MotorLand was a difficult weekend as the Iwata marque continue to endure a tougher time of it in 2018. During testing at Buriram they didn’t light up the timesheets either, but nevertheless Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) remains third in the title fight and not that far back from Dovizioso. Maverick Viñales is fifth and two behind his veteran teammate, but equal on points with Lorenzo, who is P4. So there is a lot to race for in the final rounds for both men.
In testing, it was Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) who took home the honour of top Yamaha. The Frenchman hasn’t quite been able to keep his early season pace but he’ll take heart from that on the road to Thailand – and he’s still well within striking distance of the honour of top Independent Team rider. Crutchlow is on 119 and Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) has the same, with Zarco lurking just behind on 112 points. That can easily change in over the course of even a single race…
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) led the rookies at the Buriram test and he’ll want to pocket some points, and Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) will want to start gaining back some ground on Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) in the fight for Rookie of the Year. Syahrin first rode a MotoGP bike at Buriram, so it might be a happy hunting ground.
Testing can give us some clues as we head for Chang International Circuit, but it remains uncharted territory in terms of a race weekend.
The inaugural Thailand MotoGP weekend kicks-off with two Free Practice sessions on Friday, as the whole paddock will get its first competitive feel of the Buriram circuit. Saturday’s timetable will have two more practice periods, before the qualifying takes place to decide grid positions for the main event. Michelin and the MotoGP field will take to the track on Sunday 7th October, as the newest edition to the motorcycling calendar gets underway at 1800 AEDT.
Remember daylight savings comes into effect this weekend in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Australian Capital Territory.
MotoGP Championship Points – Aragon 2018
|1.||Marquez Marc||Repsol Honda Team||246|
|2.||Dovizioso Andrea||Ducati Team||174|
|3.||Rossi Valentino||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||159|
|4.||Lorenzo Jorge||Ducati Team||130|
|5.||Vinales Maverick||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||130|
|6.||Crutchlow Cal||LCR Honda||119|
|7.||Petrucci Danilo||Alma Pramac Racing||119|
|8.||Zarco Johann||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||112|
|9.||Iannone Andrea||Team Suzuki Ecstar||108|
|10.||Rins Alex||Team Suzuki Ecstar||92|
|11.||Pedrosa Dani||Repsol Honda Team||87|
|12.||Miller Jack||Alma Pramac Racing||68|
|13.||Bautista Alvaro||Angel Nieto Team||64|
|14.||Rabat Tito||Reale Avintia Racing||35|
|15.||Espargaro Pol||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||32|
|16.||Morbidelli Franco||Marc VDS Racing Team||31|
|17.||Espargaro Aleix||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||29|
|18.||Syahrin Hafizh||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||24|
|19.||Smith Bradley||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||18|
|20.||Nakagami Takaaki||LCR Honda||18|
|21.||Redding Scott||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||12|
|22.||Kallio Mika||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||6|
|23.||Abraham Karel||Angel Nieto Team||5|
|24.||Pirro Michele||Ducati Team||1|
|25.||Luthi Thomas||Marc VDS Racing Team||0|
|26.||Bradl Stefan||Honda Racing Corporation||0|
It was becoming a two-man tale but Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) decided otherwise at Aragon. The South African took his maiden pole and then his second win, and he could be something of a joker in the pack for the two men ahead of him in the standings: Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Binder’s teammate Miguel Oliveira. Binder is 90 points back from Bagnaia, but it’s not simply a duel that could decide the outcome of the 2018 Moto2 World Championship.
Now it’s time for Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand. As a venue new to the calendar and a venue at which the intermediate class haven’t tested, it’s a clean slate and everything will come down to who gets up to speed quickest and who can take the heat. Will that be Binder? Or will Bagnaia and Oliveira reassert their authority?
Last time out, Bagnaia took second but despite that, extended his lead as it proved a tougher weekend for Oliveira. The Portuguese rider once again suffered a more difficult qualifying and clawed his way back to seventh on Sunday. He’ll have an eye on the final few races of the year where he won last year, but Buriram is up first and the mission is to start turning the tables as soon as possible. The positive for Oliveira is having points taken off Bagnaia courtesy of the friendly fire of his Red Bull KTM Ajo teammate, but what happens if the South African isn’t just taking points off the Championship leader?
Mathematically, there are seven riders in the fight. Bagnaia and Oliveira are ahead, followed by Binder. Next up is Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP 40), ahead of Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), his teammate Joan Mir and finally, Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP), the last man in with a shot. It’s a long one, however, with the German 116 points back and 125 still on the table, but each and every one of them can play a big role. Will Buriram follow the form book of pace this season? Or does the Thai heat and new venue hold a surprise?
Moto2 Championship Points – Aragon 2018
|1.||Bagnaia Francesco||Sky Racing Team VR46||234|
|2.||Oliveira Miguel||Red Bull KTM Ajo||215|
|3.||Binder Brad||Red Bull KTM Ajo||144|
|4.||Baldassarri Lorenzo||Pons HP40||132|
|5.||Marquez Alex||Estrella Galicia Marc VDS Team Moto2||126|
|6.||Mir Joan||Estrella Galicia Marc VDS Team Moto2||124|
|7.||Schrotter Marcel||Dynavolt Intact GP||118|
|8.||Pasini Mattia||Italtrans Racing Team||103|
|9.||Quartararo Fabio||Beta Tools-Speed Up Racing||100|
|10.||Vierge Xavi||Dynavolt Intact GP||96|
|11.||Marini Luca||Sky Racing Team VR46||84|
|12.||Navarro Jorge||Federal Oil Gresini Moto2||55|
|13.||Lowes Sam||Swiss Innovative Investors||46|
|14.||Lecuona Iker||Swiss Innovative Investors||43|
|15.||Corsi Simone||Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2||41|
|16.||Locatelli Andrea||Italtrans Racing Team||34|
|17.||Aegerter Dominique||Kiefer Racing||27|
|18.||Gardner Remy||Tech 3 Racing||24|
|19.||Fenati Romano||Marinelli Snipers Team||14|
|20.||Fernandez Augusto||Pons HP40||14|
|21.||Barbera Hector||Pons HP40||10|
|22.||Manzi Stefano||Forward Racing Team||8|
|23.||Kent Danny||Beta Tools-Speed Up Racing||8|
|24.||Nagashima Tetsuta||Idemitsu Honda Team Asia||8|
|25.||Vinales Isaac||Forward Racing Team||7|
|26.||Roberts Joe||NTS RW Racing GP||2|
|27.||Pawi Khairul Idham||Idemitsu Honda Team Asia||1|
|28.||Odendaal Steven||NTS RW Racing GP||1|
|29.||Raffin Jesko||Garage Plus Interwetten||1|
|30.||Bendsneyder Bo||Tech 3 Racing||0|
|31.||Pons Edgar||Pons HP40||0|
|32.||Tuuli Niki||SIC Racing Team||0|
|33.||Granado Eric||Forward Racing Team||0|
|34.||Danilo Jules||SAG Team||0|
|35.||Garzo Hector||Garzo H.||0|
|36.||Tulovic Lukas||Kiefer Racing||0|
|37.||Fuligni Federico||Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2||0|
|38.||Cardelus Xavi||Team Stylobike||0|
|39.||Morais Sheridan||Willirace Racing Team||0|
|40.||Medina Alejandro||SAG Team||0|
|41.||Pratama Dimas Ekky||Federal Oil Gresini Moto2||0|
|42.||Perolari Corentin||Promoto Sport||0|
|43.||Khairuddin Zulfahmi||SIC Racing Team||0|
|44.||Tangre Cedric||Yohan Moto Sport||0|
Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) put on quite a show at MotorLand Aragon, taking pole and then disappearing from the holeshot to stretch out an incredible lead and cross the line in clear air. But Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PruestelGP) came back from a big grid penalty to take second, and that in itself was a statement: it will be no walk in the park if Martin expects to keep winning. More than that, coming home second from so far back was supreme damage limitation, meaning the Italian lost only 5 points of ground. With the twists and turns of the season so far we already know how quickly things can change and Bezzecchi will want to hit back quick at Buriram.
The first of those trying to play catch up before it becomes a definitive duel for the crown is Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3), who is now 18 points behind Bezzecchi. Behind him? Another man who put in an impressive comeback at MotorLand Aragon: Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing). The ‘Beast’, like Bezzecchi, rode through the pack and although he’s a way further behind, there are still 125 points up for grabs in 2018. Neither Bastianini nor Di Giannantonio are out of it, even before relying on simple black and white maths to tell us that.
Now, the fight for those points begins in Thailand, at a track that’s new to all and a very different challenge to that of MotorLand. Here there are no track records, no form books and no spring in the step of any previous winners – it’s total reset, and anyone’s game.
Or is it? There are a select few who have raced at Chang International Circuit before: Asia Talent Cup alumni. Home hero Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) won Race 2 of the ATC in 2015, eventual Champion Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) took two second places in 2015 and Kazuki Masaki (RBA BOE Skull Rider) has a number of top five finishes in the Cup, including a podium in 2015. 2016 Asia Talent Cup Champion Somkiat Chantra will also be on track as a wildcard, and the Thai rider has two wins to his name in Buriram. Will they have an advantage?
Moto3 Championship Points – Aragon 2018
|1.||Martin Jorge||Del Conca Gresini Racing Moto3||191|
|2.||Bezzecchi Marco||Pruestel GP||178|
|3.||Di Giannantonio Fabio||Del Conca Gresini Racing Moto3||150|
|4.||Bastianini Enea||Leopard Racing||133|
|5.||Canet Aron||Estrella Galicia 0,0||118|
|6.||Rodrigo Gabriel||RBA BOE Skull Rider||97|
|7.||Kornfeil Jakub||Pruestel GP||96|
|8.||Dalla Porta Lorenzo||Leopard Racing||91|
|9.||Ramirez Marcos||Bester Capital Dubai||78|
|10.||Migno Andrea||Angel Nieto Team Moto3||71|
|11.||Arenas Albert||Angel Nieto Team Moto3||69|
|12.||Masia Jaume||Bester Capital Dubai||61|
|13.||Antonelli Niccolo||SIC58 Squadra Corse||56|
|14.||Oettl Philipp||Sudmetall Schedl GP Racing||54|
|15.||Suzuki Tatsuki||SIC58 Squadra Corse||50|
|16.||Mcphee John||CIP Green Power||49|
|17.||Arbolino Tony||Marinelli Snipers Team||37|
|18.||Norrodin Adam||Petronas Sprinta Racing||36|
|19.||Sasaki Ayumu||Petronas Sprinta Racing||32|
|20.||Lopez Alonso||Estrella Galicia 0,0||31|
|21.||Toba Kaito||Idemitsu Honda Team Asia||29|
|22.||Binder Darryn||Red Bull KTM Ajo||28|
|23.||Foggia Dennis||Sky Racing Team VR46||26|
|24.||Fernandez Raul||MRW Mahindra Aspar Team||13|
|25.||Bulega Nicolo||Sky Racing Team VR46||9|
|26.||Yurchenko Makar||CIP Green Power||9|
|27.||Loi Livio||Reale Avintia Racing||8|
|28.||Masaki Kazuki||RBA BOE Skull Rider||8|
|29.||Pagliani Manuel||SIC Racing Team||6|
|30.||Perez Vicente||Reale Avintia Academy||3|
|31.||Atiratphuvapat Nakarin||Idemitsu Honda Team Asia||2|
|32.||Ogura Ai||Asia Talent Team||1|
|33.||Nepa Stefano||CIP Green Power||0|
|34.||Montella Yari||Montella Y.||0|
|35.||Zannoni Kevin||Althea Racing||0|
|36.||Grunwald Luca||Kiefer Racing||0|
|37.||Alcoba Jeremy||Junior Team Estrella Galicia 0,0||0|
|38.||Salac Filip||Czech Talent Team Cuna de Campeones||0|
|39.||Van de Lagemaat Ryan||Van de Lagemaat R.||0|
|40.||Kofler Maximilian||Motorsport Kofler E.U.||0|